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Nicole Waterland

Nicole Waterland with her daughter in a greenhouse of poinsettias.


I’m a horticulturist. My research area focuses on understanding the influence of climate change on plant growth and development. The majority of my research takes place in what we call controlled environment agriculture, which are greenhouses, high tunnels, growth chambers: places where we can manipulate the environmental conditions. That allows us to look at a lot of different factors that influence plant growth, like atmospheric carbon dioxide level, temperature, light intensity, relative humidity, and the moisture level.

We examine how these factors influence plant growth and development. Sometimes plants will produce products called phytochemicals or secondary metabolites in response to those stresses. Those things are good for us in terms of nutrition. We’re not only investigating the mechanisms of plants’ responses to stresses, but we’re also looking at how changing that environment could potentially make them more nutritious. 

What we have learned so far is that small changes in the production environment can have huge impacts on crop quality and quantity. I really think improvement of the nutritional quality of crops is the next direction horticultural production would go. It’s not just yields and amounts of food but the composition. Current consumers want crops with higher nutritional value and taste. Controlled environment agriculture allows us to accomplish this goal and this will be a growing area in agriculture.

What jobs did you have before coming to WVU?

I was a Ph.D. student at The Ohio State University. I was working on post-harvest physiology and flower senescence.

What has been the best or most enjoyable time/class/moment in your education?

I took two greenhouse production courses. I learned a lot and felt like they prepared me for whatever the next step was in my life. When I left those classes, I felt like I could go into a greenhouse and manage it successfully.

I had some of my most enjoyable moments when I was an instructor. It is so different being on the other side of the lectern, where I was the one trying to convey and teach something to someone else. My first teaching experience during my master’s degree was the most memorable to me. I thought I wasn’t going to like teaching because I felt I was not a good public speaker. About two or three weeks in, I realized I did like teaching. I saw the light come on in someone’s eyes when they understood a concept for the first time. The feeling I did something to help others learn made me fall in love with teaching.

What has been the best or most enjoyable time/class/moment in your job?

I think the most memorable experiences were when I saw students were happy, especially my graduate and undergraduate students.


What’s one thing you wish you had known in college?

I wish I would have gone more outside of my comfort zone and maybe participated in more activities. I was very focused on graduating and preparing for the next step. I wish I would have taken the time to do more international travels, internships, and other activities to broaden my perspective.

What were you most grateful for in 2020?

I had a baby! We had our first child, Grace. In 2020, I had my pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum under lockdown. I’m grateful for my family being healthy and our daughter joining our life.



Just for Fun

What are you currently reading?  Journal articles about heat stress

What’s your favorite meal? Iowa porkchop with broccoli and potatoes

What’s a song that you can listen to on repeat?  Amazing Grace

What's one thing you can't live without? My family